Tim Hughes enjoys a night of nostalgic tunes, virtuoso musicianship and cracking banter for the launch of this year's Jazz at St Giles season

Celebrating Hoagy: The Chris Ingham Quartet

Jazz at St St Giles

September 30

Oh, to be a jazz lover in Oxford, now that autumn’s here.

The city’s Spin jazz club is going felt pelt at The Wheatsheaf, the Spin’s talented guitarist Pete Oxley has a monthly residency at the cosy Butchers Arms in Headington, and now we have a season of fabulous music to look forward to with the launch of Jazz at St Giles.

Even in a city as blessed as Oxford, it would be hard to find a more lovely venue than St Giles Church.

With artists framed by its 12th century chancel, the setting is beautiful yet intimate – and the acoustics superb (in no small part due to the efforts of David Carugo of the School of Arts at Oxford Brookes, and sound engineer Glenda Huish).

And the bar was set high for its opening night on with Chris Ingham and his quartet.

A pianist, singer, composer and producer of note, Ingham is a respected interpreter of classic jazz.

This time it was the American songwriter Hoagy Carmichael who got the Carmichael treatment – joined by trumpeter Paul Higgs, bassist Geoff Gascoyne and George Double on drums.

The audience warmed to familiar tunes like Georgia on my Mind, Heart and Soul, Lazybones and the almost-too beautiful Stardust (immortalised, of course by Nat King Cole).

There were also rarities and a few surprises – and, right at the end, the quirky My Resistance Is Low.

Throughout Ingham regaled us with stories from Hoagy’s life, and a couple of enlightening musical lessons – which elevated the show beyond a straightforward tribute.

What made this such a strong show though was the chemistry between Ingham and his band, and each member’s virtuoisty – given free reign in a number of delicious improvisations.

Particular note must go to Higgs, who is a trumpeter of rare talent – his sublime blowing alternately raising the church roof, lazily soothing with deft control of his battered mute and tingling the spine – while Gascoyne twanged like a demon and Double set the place on fire with a frantic display on sticks.

A delightful and surprisingly exhilarating show, then. The next one sees the David Gordon Trio on October 14. I can’t wait.